Sold with thanks to Copenhagen, Denmark
American Market Cup and Saucer
Late 18th century
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
Porcelain with overglaze enamels
Cup H: 5 cm D: 9 cm; Saucer D: 14.5 cm
Cup perfect with one minute rim frit; plate one small hairline
From a private collection in Scarborough, Maine
American market porcelain may seem staidly reserved in comparison to other Chinese export wares. However, their historical significance ought to lend them a secure place in any serious Americana or China trade collection.
Under British rule, the American colonies could not trade directly with Canton; Chinese porcelain were reserved for the wealthy and prominent families who could afford to purchase china at high price from the British East India Company.
Following Independence, the Americans did join in on the China trade in 1874, when the ship Empress of China successfully made a voyage to Canton. However, Chinese porcelain (in particular European taste wares with elaborate famille rose decorations) became problematic during the new era: emblematic of Old World aristocratic consumption, Chinese porcelain were in danger of being perceived as antithetical to Republican simplicity. Samuel Shaw, supercargo to the Empress of China, resolved this controversy by designing a whole new look for Chinese export porcelain. Now know as “American market,” this group of wares are characterized by simplicity of design and attention to American motifs and designs. An effort was made to purge Chinese images in favor of rather utilitarian and masculine pieces. The monogram seen on this cup and saucer is the subject of interesting debate: does it represent newly acquired American individuality? Or is it an attempt to reconnect with European aristocracy by evoking the customization and prestige of amorial porcelain?